Sharps Safe Handling Procedures

Sharps are defined in the “National Guidelines for the Management of Clinical and related Wastes” (published by the National Health and Medical Research Council) as:

“Objects or devices having acute rigid corners, edges points or protuberances capable of cutting or penetrating the skin”.

Hypodermic needles, pasteur pipettes, scalpel blades, lancets and broken glass all fit this definition.

header1All sharps have the potential to cause injury through cuts or puncture wounds. Sharps can cause accidental injections and cuts when improperly handled. In addition, many sharps are contaminated with blood or body fluids, microbiological materials, toxic chemicals or radioactive substances, posing a risk of infection or illness if they penetrate the skin. Blood contaminated sharps can spread viruses such as those causing Hepatitis B, C and HIV.


If you use sharps during the course of your work, there are some basic procedures for safe handling:

  • Do not recap / re-sheath needles or lancets.
  • Scalpel blades should be removed and disposed of using artery forceps.
  • Do not ask for a sharp item to be taken from you or to be disposed of by someone else.
  • Do not walk unnecessary distances with a sharp in hand.
  • Dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps container; never in a waste bin or plastic bag.
  • Dispose of sharps immediately after use – not later – to avoid needlestick injuries.
  • When disposing sharps in a container:
    • place the sharp end in first i.e. pointing it away from the body;
    • drop the item in rather than push;
    • do not place hands inside the container.
  • Sharps containers should be replaced when 75% full.
  • Sharps containers should be sealed after use.
  • Ensure that the sharps container is closed for disposal.

Locate your nearest first aid officer.

Appropriate action should include:

  • Calming the injured person.
  • If there is no foreign body lodged, the wound should be cleaned with antiseptic.
  • If bleeding occurs a dressing would also be applied.
  • If part of a hypodermic needle is lodged, it should not be removed and treated accordingly to avoid further penetration.
  • The injured should be advised to go immediately to a doctor or attend the Accident and Emergency section at your nearest Hospital for further treatment. If necessary, an ambulance would be called.
  • If the sharp is a hypodermic needle it should be collected using gloves, tongs and a sharps container.
  • An Accident/Injury/Incident Report form should be completed and forwarded to your Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator.

Reference: “National guidelines for the Management of Clinical and related wastes”, National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra.

ya2l_1_sWhen full, sharps containers holding contaminated sharps MUST NOT be placed into the general rubbish stream.

It is recommended collection of full sharps containers and other hazardous waste is Arranged through an accredited waste disposal company.

Contaminated waste is to be identified by the colour yellow and the internationally recognised black multi-circle symbol.

All containers and plastics bags are to be yellow and are to be marked with the international bio-hazard symbol and the words “Contaminated Waste” symbol and words are to be easily readable.